Page last updated at 00:04 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 01:04 UK

Hampshire council to aid Afghan troops vote

Soldiers in Afghanistan
About 65% of the troops in Afghanistan are registered to vote

A Hampshire council has been drafted in to help ensure UK forces in Afghanistan can vote in the general election.

The Ministry of Defence has asked Rushmoor council to co-ordinate postal votes for military personnel.

Special supply planes will bring the papers back to the UK, although only about 65% of the 9,500 personnel in Afghanistan are registered to vote.

It comes after a campaign from service welfare groups which said votes were not making it back in time.

There will be just 11 days between the final declaration of candidates and polling day in which the votes must be processed.

Rushmoor officials will forward voting papers to the relevant local authorities by 2200 BST on the day of the 6 May election.

'Not guaranteed'

Troops from other countries have been able to vote electronically but that process is illegal for parliamentary elections in the UK.

Julie McCarthy, from the Army Families Federation, welcomed the move.

She said: "The postal votes simply weren't coming back in time.

"Often from Kabul it took 12 days to come back, which would have meant the person's vote would not have counted."

Andrew Colver, head of elections at Rushmoor Borough Council, admitted getting the votes to their relevant locations would be a race against time.

"At the end of the day there are a number of operational issues which mean that the process can't be guaranteed," he said.

"But we have done a lot of planning on this and I think we can make it work."

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